RYE, N.H. – Sen. Tim Scott was anything but the loudest voice at the first Republican presidential nomination debate, but that’s just fine with the conservative lawmaker from South Carolina.
“The loudest voices too often say too little,” Scott said in a Fox News interview this past week in what was a clear jab at some of his rivals for the GOP nomination.
Scott, a rising star in the GOP, has been spotlighting an uplifting conservative message as he seeks his party’s presidential nomination. And because he mostly avoided the numerous verbal fistfights at the first debate on Aug. 23, he rarely enjoyed the glare of the primetime spotlight.
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The senator — who didn’t target his fellow candidates and wasn’t targeted by any of them — grabbed far less speaking time than most of his onstage rivals and appeared to fade into the background amid the jousting.
Scott repeatedly said the past two weeks that he was the “adult in the room” at the first showdown and that the crossfire between the other candidates on the stage only helps the Democrats and the media.
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Scott insists that “having an optimistic, positive message, I think is necessary not only for us to be successful in a primary but for us to be successful in the general election.”
And Scott — who was interviewed by Fox News after headlining a “No BS Backyard BBQ” series event in Rye, New Hampshire, hosted by former GOP Sen. Scott Brown — emphasized that in order to win the White House “we’re going to have a conservative who’s optimistic, positive, anchored in conservatism, that has a backbone. That is the recipe to persuade not only our base but also independents to join the team and save the nation from the road to socialism.”
At an event in New Hampshire — which holds the first primary and second overall contest in the Republican presidential nominating calendar — right after the first debate, Scott acknowledged that “following the rules does not give you more time.”
“So, lesson learned,” he added.
But looking ahead to the next debate, a FOX Business-hosted showdown on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the senator said, “I’m going to remember that lesson, but I’m also going to comport myself in the same fashion.”
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And in a Fox News Channel interview on Wednesday, Scott reiterated that substance will drive his debate performance: “I’ll provide the American people with an adult in the room.”
It’s the same message from his campaign, which tells Fox News their candidate’s staying the course.
But plenty of pundits and strategists say Scott missed out on a breakout moment at the first showdown and wasted an opportunity.
“I was very disappointed in his performance,” longtime New Hampshire-based Republican consultant Mike Dennehy told Fox News.
Dennehy, a veteran of multiple GOP presidential campaigns who remains neutral this cycle, said, “[T]o me, it’s not that he didn’t attack anyone. He just wasn’t engaging and forceful. He had what appeared to be rehearsed platitudes.”
“I absolutely appreciate Scott being the happy conservative warrior. I think that’s important in this race,” Dennehy said. “He has one of the best images of all the candidates.”
But he argued that “Tim Scott needs more than just being the happy conservative warrior. He’s stuck. He’s running in place and in neutral right now.”
While Scott crisscrosses the early voting states in the weeks between the two debates, he enjoys a campaign war-chest advantage over many of his rivals.
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As Fox News reported last month, his campaign’s shelling out $8 million to run ads in the early voting states, with a Scott-aligned super PAC dishing out $40 million to run spots.
Sources in Scott’s political orbit tout that the senator “has the message and the resources to stay competitive” in the months leading up to the start of the presidential nominating calendar.
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